'Even as I am'

Service in God’s Kingdom is one of life’s truly great blessings — because service blesses both the receiver and the giver.

In giving service, one’s focus is to bless, to lift and to help others come unto the Savior.

And, in practicing what one preaches, a profitable servant also seeks to be what the Lord hopes that servant will become.

In other words, we serve not because of the positions to which we are called, but because of the condition of our hearts. Mercifully, the service itself helps create our hearts’ proper condition.

The process, though simple to contemplate, requires that we daily fill our hearts with the things of the Spirit — thereby blocking the din of the world. Through a lifetime of effort — and with the humble acceptance of the Savior’s grace — we servants “become what children of God are supposed to become.” (See Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” October 2000 general conference.)

On a particular Sabbath, a stake presidency was being reorganized, and the three brethren being released were contemplating the things they had “done” and what, perhaps, they had “become” during their combined 27 years of service.

They were also contemplating the unknown number of additional years of service that gratefully lie ahead.

“In the service of the Lord, it is not where you serve but how,” taught President J. Reuben Clark Jr.

For these good brethren, the “how” of their service was governed by the “why.” They served because they loved the Lord — and their fellowmen. (See Matthew 22:36-40.)

That service was as small — but kindly and loving — as a sack of freshly picked peaches hanging, as a surprise gift, on the rearview mirror of a vehicle in the Church parking lot.

That service was uninterrupted — even when the server, charged with helping the stake’s unemployed, found himself out of a job. With an unwanted — but, perhaps, needed — up-close-and-personal look at the being jobless, this good brother’s empathy soared and he found himself better able to teach others who face those challenges.

That service included the metaphor of a “fishing story” about a kind grandfather who lovingly brought a grandson across a fast-moving stream. That same love — and a solid person to lean on — would bring wandering sheep back to the Shepherd.

That service blessed young priesthood leaders as they learned how to preside, how to receive inspiration and the protocol associated with what President Boyd K. Packer has called “the ordinary things about the Church which every member should know.” (See President Boyd K. Packer, “The Unwritten Order of Things,” BYU Devotional, October 15, 1996.)

That service came under the hot sun while pulling, with the youth, handcarts along dusty trails. Inevitably, it seemed, the heat and dust were followed by cold rain — and mud! But the leaders’ teachings about life — especially those taught by example — were untarnished by the elements.

In that service, the servants came to know their sheep. They built relationships. They loved. They gave. They taught. They ministered — all in deep hope of helping Christ hasten His work of salvation.

That service included inspired leadership. They taught the doctrines, the principles and the practices that invited others to follow — not these servants, but the Master.

In that service, these brethren invited — and called — others to serve. Be it a bishop or an auxiliary leader, the call, they knew, was divine — and they were merely messengers.

That service came on cold nights — when visiting appointments had fallen through — knocking on doors where no appointments existed.

That service came with the warmth of a welcoming opened door — and the burning of the Spirit testifying of truth.

That service came on hot afternoons with many, perhaps too many, Saints crowded into a small office for a priesthood ordination.

That service came using a free minute to engage fellow Saints in the meetinghouse halls, learning not just their names, but their personal stories — and their feelings about the doctrines.

That service included initiative — not just filling given assignments, but, as consistently taught by Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, being agents to act and not objects to be acted upon. Their actions focused on specific needs to bring souls to Christ. (See texts of talks by Elder Bednar and many others in the October 2006 and April 2012 general conferences.)

Through the ups and the downs, that service was, as taught by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency, “a great work” from which they would not “come down.” (See President Uchtdorf; April 2009 general conference, Priesthood session. Also Nehemiah 6:3.)

In the final analysis, that service — that remarkable experience — was less about what these brethren had done — though that was manifestly important — and more about what they had become.

Because of their faith, their belief, their good works — and, most important, the enabling grace of the Savior’s Atonement, they had, perhaps, become just a little more like their Savior.

As they faithfully and obediently continue in that process, they, like all of God’s children, will eventually become “even as I am.” (See 3 Nephi 27:27.)

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